UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK. Bridges SPRING Crime and Imprisonment: How Social Work Can Help Break the Cycle

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1 UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK Bridges M A G A Z I N E SPRING 2008 Crime and Imprisonment: How Social Work Can Help Break the Cycle

2 Bridges Table of contents Dean s Message... 1 School News... 2 Bridges is the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work magazine. We selected the name Bridges largely because of its symbolism. The term provides an important metaphor for both our profession and our school. Social work is a profession that has, as part of its mission, the goal of building and sustaining bridges among individuals, families, groups, neighborhoods, and communities, and we felt that the title Bridges captures this part of our professional mission. At the same time, the city of Pittsburgh has more than 450 bridges, and Allegheny County has almost 2,000, suggesting an uncompromising desire of the city s inhabitants to remain connected with one another. In keeping with this heritage, it is the school s goal to sustain and build bridges among those needing social work services; our alumni, faculty, and staff; the community; and corporate and governmental partners. We believe that the information in this magazine is an important way to achieve this goal. Feature: Crime and Imprisonment... 4 Development & Alumni News Faculty Focus Research Update News from the Center on Race and Social Problems Class Notes Published by the School of Social Work Editor...Larry E. Davis, Dean Assistant Editor... Rosemary A. Rinella Department of University Marketing Communications Editor... Kelly Kaufman Editorial Assistant...Sarah Jordan Rosenson Art Director... Bill Ivins Production Coordinator... Chuck Dinsmore Writer... Niki Kapsambelis University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work 2117 Cathedral of Learning 4200 Fifth Avenue Pittsburgh, PA Bridges magazine is published biannually and is sent to alumni and friends of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work. The University of Pittsburgh is an affirmative action, equal opportunity institution. Published in cooperation with the Department of University Marketing Communications. UMC Award of Honor, IABC Golden Triangle Awards, magazine design 2006 Award of Distinction, Communicator Awards, magazine design School of Social Work

3 DEAN S Message On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students, it is always a pleasure to bring you greetings in the new year. 2008, like previous years, promises to be another busy and exciting time for the School of Social Work. Everyone is working hard, morale is high, and people are genuinely enjoying working together. Each year brings with it new challenges and opportunities, and this past year has been no exception. Among other things, we have been busy hiring new colleagues each of whom addresses an important area of need for the school (see School News, page 2). Feng Yuan is our new data manager; Ann Rago comes on board in a newly created position, director of marketing and communications; and Keith Caldwell has come to the school by way of another newly created position, director of career services and alumni affairs. Dolores Dee Brown, who had been with the school for 15 years, has retired. We thank her for her years of service and wish her all the best. Darlene Norman-Davis has come on board as Dee s replacement; we welcome her. Finally, we made one new tenuretrack faculty hire, William Elliott III. He comes from Washington University in St. Louis and has keen interests in economic and social disparities. The addition of these new positions and personnel promises to make the school more vibrant, but it also suggests we will be even busier than before. This issue of Bridges focuses on crime and imprisonment, two major social problems for America (see feature, page 4). Our society is among the most crime-ridden of any in the industrialized world. In most of our major cities, acts of violence are so common that people hardly take notice of their reporting in the news. America also is the world s greatest incarcerator, with more than 2 million people under lock and key in federal, state, or local facilities. Indeed, the rates of crime and imprisonment among African American males are cause for national action. It is shameful for a nation to sustain such unbelievable rates of imprisonment. These rates reflect blatant racial biases in societal opportunity structures and in our criminal justice system. Inexcusable is the fact that whereas African Americans make up just 12 percent of the total population, they make up 40 percent of those who are incarcerated. Troublesome, too, is the fact that imprisonment appears to leave an indelible mark on those imprisoned, as many are permanently denied future legal employment as well as the right to vote. This issue features a study by Professor Hide Yamatani that highlights the fact that, if we as a society are willing to provide those who are incarcerated with sound social services during their internment, recidivism can be reduced. Studies have shown that the introduction of human services to prisoners results in major economic savings as well as an enhanced level of social functioning of those once incarcerated. It is up to us as social workers to continue to advocate for greater resources and justice for those incarcerated. As is always the case, we hope you will enjoy this issue and view it as an opportunity to sustain contact with your classmates, faculty, and friends. We also hope you will find it informative and able to keep you abreast of what s going on in the school. And as always, I invite you and a friend to join us anytime for a free lecture and lunch on the 20th floor of the Cathedral of Learning (see speaker series schedules, page 3 and back cover). Larry E. Davis Dean Donald M. Henderson Professor Bridges 1

4 SCHOOL News Ann Rago is the school s new director of marketing and communications, effective January 14, Rago has many years of experience in public relations, marketing, and communications. Feng Yuan was hired as the school s data manager, effective January 2. Yuan has more than 20 years experience as a systems programmer. Darlene Norman-Davis was hired on January 2 as an administrative assistant, providing support to the director of continuing education and the director of career services and alumni affairs. Marcia Piel, recorder, completed 30 years of service to the University and was honored at both the University s staff recognition reception and the school s holiday luncheon in December. Other staff members recognized at the luncheon were John Dalessandro, Michelle LoDuca, and Christine Stanesic, all for five years of service. Dolores Brown, administrative assistant, also was recognized at the luncheon. She retired from the University on January 2, Keith Caldwell (MSW 02) was appointed by Dean Larry E. Davis as the new director of career services and alumni affairs, effective January 2, Caldwell received his BS from Niagara University. He has served as an adjunct faculty member and director of the School of Social Work Alumni Society. William Elliott III was appointed by Dean Larry E. Davis as a tenure-track assistant professor, effective September 1, Elliott received a PhD and an MSW from Washington University in St. Louis and a BA from Geneva College. His research interests include economic disparities, educational disparities, residential segregation, asset research, and social development. Lambert Maguire, associate dean for academic affairs and professor, has been Ann Rago Feng Yuan elected vice president of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) for a three-year term. SSWR is one of the largest and most prestigious research organizations in the country. Christina Newhill received a 2008 Chancellor s Distinguished Teaching Award. She was recognized at the University s Honors Convocation, held February 29 at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. The School of Social Work has a new Web site. Please visit pitt.edu to catch up on the latest news and information and to check out our new look! Encyclopedia of Social Work The 20th edition of the Encyclopedia of Social Work was released in March Dean Larry E. Davis and Terry Mizrahi served as coeditors in chief of the edition, which is four volumes and contains almost 400 entries. It is a joint publication of the National Association of Social Workers and Oxford University Press. BASW Program In response to student interest and building on the John A. Hartford Foundationfunded Geriatric Practicum Partnership Program, the school is expanding its programs in aging and gerontology to the BASW Program. Two community partners will offer paid field internships in gerontology to undergraduate social work majors to teach them skills and competencies in working with older adults, including those who are well and living independently and those who may be frail and in need of supportive services. Darlene Norman-Davis Keith Caldwell MSW Program The MSW Program recently implemented a new foundation field model as well as a redesigned Community Organization and Social Administration (COSA) concentration. The new field seminar model better prepares foundation students to enter the field and enables a more seamless transition between the classroom and the practice environment. After much consultation with a community advisory panel, COSA faculty redesigned the concentration to provide focused study in two areas: community organization and social administration. This will strengthen graduates ability to be competitive in the marketplace. PhD Program In January 2008, the school initiated planning for a 60th anniversary celebration of the awarding of its first doctoral degree in social work. Members of the planning committee include Gary Koeske, Esther Sales, Edward Sites, Barbara Shore, and Valire Carr Copeland (chair). The committee hopes to plan a program that will encourage as many doctoral alumni as possible to attend and keep the tradition of scholarship and research alive. Child Welfare Education and Research Programs Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell has appointed Steve Eidson, a practice improvement specialist with the Child Welfare Training Program, to the Governor s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities. Eidson is one of 58 individuals who have been appointed to three-year terms. The advisory committee was formed to work with the 2 Spring 2008

5 governor s cabinet to examine issues related to people with disabilities and to make recommendations to improve services, connections, and partnerships on behalf of the disabled in Pennsylvania. Julie McCrae and Mary Beth Rauktis have joined the Child Welfare Education and Research Programs as research faculty. McCrae and Rauktis have been instrumental in setting the child welfare research agenda, which includes study across the key areas of service disparity, workforce and training issues, and child well-being. Projects currently are under way using both statewide and national data to address racial disparity in child welfare, child welfare workforce issues, and improving service delivery. Mark E. Courtney, professor and Ballmer Endowed Chair for Child Well-Being at the University of Washington School of Social Work, presented the lecture Building a Profession for Social Justice or Picking Up the Scraps? Whither Social Work in the 21st Century? on February 6, James Midgley, Harry and Riva Specht Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Social Welfare, will wrap up the series with his lecture, Promoting a Developmental Perspective in Social Work: Lessons from the Global South, at noon on April 9, 2008, in the School of Social Work Conference Center, 2017 Cathedral of Learning. Lunch will be provided. For additional details, visit or call The Erosion of Civil Rights and Community Responses Kerry O Donnell, President, The Falk Foundation Monday, January 14 the Racial Wealth Gap Thomas M. Shapiro, Pokross Professor of Law and Social Policy, Brandeis University Thursday, February 28 Race at Work: Discrimination against Black and Latino Job Seekers Devah Pager, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Princeton University Tuesday, March 18 The Experiences of Black Fathers with Low Incomes Learning. Lunch will be provided; no registration is required. Ronald B. Mincy, Maurice V. Russell Professor of Social Policy and Social Work Practice, Columbia University Tuesday, April 8 Alberto Godenzi, dean and professor, Boston College Graduate School of Social Work, will deliver a lecture on April 15, 2008, in celebration of World Social Work Day. The lecture, titled Principles for Good Practice in International Social Work, will be held in the School of Social Work Conference Center, 2017 Cathedral of Godenzi s areas of research are interpersonal violence, conflict and cooperation, gender and organization, and HIV/AIDS. He has published more than 50 scholarly articles or book chapters and 10 books in four different languages. He received significant research grants from private and public funding institutions in France, Austria, and Switzerland and from the European Union. He collaborated as a research specialist with numerous international bodies, such as the Council of Europe, UNESCO, the World Health Organization, and the International Labour Organization. Godenzi initiated and directed social development projects in Ecuador; served as professor and director of the Department of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland; and served as a lecturer/research associate at the Universities of Zurich and New Hampshire. In 2004, Godenzi was nominated cochair of the International Task Force of the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work and was awarded a grant to pursue issues of global practice. That same year, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the Council on Social Work Education, and in 2005, he was nominated secretarygeneral of the International Consortium for Social Development. In 2007, he cochaired the first International Social Work Conference in the United States, which was held in Boston. Assets for Change: Closing Bridges 3

6 Feature Crime and Imprisonment: How Social Work Can Help Break the Cycle Walk into a school of social work and ask the students what they plan to do with their MSW once they earn it. Chances are, working with inmates won t be high on the list or even on the radar. But with incarceration rates mushrooming and inmates eventually leaving their cells to rejoin society, experts say that s exactly where the particular skills of social work are needed most. It s a multifront task: working at the macro policy level; advocating change based on scientific findings; and then, at the interpersonal and family level, using this information for more prevention work and more intervention as well, says Michael Vaughn, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work. Social work should have some impactful involvement. I m not sure it does, frankly. Blame it on the times. As is the case in any other profession, social workers need jobs when they graduate. But the nation s correction system is not really geared toward rehabilitation and so does 4 Spring 2008

7 not offer much employment opportunity compared to other direct practice settings, says Vaughn. Further adding to the problem is that the entire field has been crowded by programs geared toward criminal justice, he notes. The whole area of crime and punishment has not been a social work issue. It s been other fields that have really dominated criminology, criminal justice, Vaughn says. The academic programs in those areas have really increased over the last 30 years and taken over. Cost-benefit Analysis The debate stretches across many fronts: economic, sociological, and racial. Currently, the United States is the imprisonment leader of the Western world, with somewhere between 2.2 and 2.4 million people incarcerated. When inmates are released without ready access to social services, they are far more likely to commit another crime and return to the system, a very costly proposition. Imprisonment s very expensive, says Vaughn, especially when compared to the cost of providing services that are known to reduce recidivism. It s amazing. We spend tremendous amounts of money on it. It s much costlier to lock someone up than to treat them, which is the irony of it. Race also plays a key role. African Americans are 10 times more likely to be imprisoned than Whites. Women are one of the fastest growing inmate populations, and the younger a person is when he or she commits a crime, the greater the risk for chronic misbehavior and imprisonment in the future, says Vaughn. So, given those factors, how much impact can social workers actually make? Plenty, according to Hide Yamatani, professor and associate dean for research in the School of Social Work. A study he conducted on the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative, which provides injail and transitional services to inmates as a strategy for reducing recidivism, concluded that the provision of these services, the traditional domain of social work, both kept people from returning to jail and saved the county significant amounts of money. One year after their release, 33.1 percent of inmates who did not get services returned to jail, compared to just 16.5 percent of the inmates who received services through the collaborative a relative difference of 50 percent. That was true across all races. In addition, the county saved more than $5.3 million annually by the collaborative s serving 300 inmates per year. The return on investment was approximately $6 saved for every $1 spent, says Yamatani. And the "We spend tremendous amounts of money on [imprisonment]. It s much costlier to lock someone up than to treat them, which is the irony of it. Michael Vaughn Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work greatest savings were in the areas of public safety and reduced victimization among county residents. There s a huge public safety benefit, because these people are robbing, attacking, assaulting, and so forth, says Yamatani. Speaking of chronic criminals, he adds, They need social services the most, and they respond to the offerings more. Continued on next page Bridges 5

8 Birth of an Idea The program started under the tenure of former Allegheny County Jail Warden Calvin Lightfoot and was picked up by subsequent county officials. What better way to serve individuals than to have a continuous engagement of services, because they re a captive audience, says Yamatani. In contrast to a person in the community, who may or may not keep up with the treatment, you know that person is there [in jail] and they ll be coming. Services included drug and alcohol treatment, General Education Development (GED) test preparation, computer literacy, stress and anger management, parenting skills, creative writing and publishing, life skills, and vocational training. Former inmates require access to a broad range of services to remove the obstacles that block their paths toward successful participation in society, says Yamatani. You can t just give one service and expect good results. You have to give them a combination of services, he explains. No agency is capable of offering everything that the client needs. He also is convinced that social workers can do much to bridge the gap between imprisonment and reentry for inmates, particularly in addressing racial disparities. Almost all of them want to succeed in community life, he says. If you happen to be Black, you have a situation that s far worse. Employers oftentimes are less knowledgeable of the impact of race on their work performance and so forth. They go by popular misconceptions that [Black people] are less dedicated or not as well acclimated to work. It s not race, it s the other factors in terms of opportunities they have had or not had. From a young age, they are suffering from inequity in education and job training. Finding the Meaning So, if a problem exists that social work can successfully address, what s the holdup? Ironically, the answer lies within the social work profession itself, at multiple levels. According to Vaughn, social work s role should revolve around several areas: policy changes at the government level, treatment of the inmates through direct services, and education of new social workers. But, unfortunately, most students who pursue an MSW degree are not targeting a career related to the criminal justice system. [Social work students are] very sympathetic to these issues, says Vaughn. But it s an area where social work should be doing more, because it is, in many ways, a human rights issue; it s also a public health issue. He believes the profession should work to develop more socially redolent messages to stimulate interest, the same way advocates for more prisons have. Simple, emotional, evocative messages really are much more effective than piles of scientific findings, Vaughn notes. We haven t done a good enough job of making [work related to the prison system] attractive. There s a real role for social work to play, potentially, that is probably going unfulfilled. In terms of direct care, he believes a big impact can happen if more social workers are trained to become competent addiction professionals, as the rise in drug use has contributed significantly to the increase in incarceration rates across all demographics. 6 Spring 2008

9 A Step toward Real Change Vaughn also cautions that treatment is not the only solution; to effect real change, social workers must learn to help shape policy and other forces that drive a culture of imprisonment. This is very much a structural problem. I don t think we re going to treat our way out of it. You should treat, and you can moderate it a little bit. But the largest conditions are set up for this punitive philosophy to be in place. Toward that end, the School of Social Work in 2007 partnered with the Pitt School of Law to form an MSW/JD joint degree program. The students, who must be accepted by both schools to enroll, will begin the intensive four-year program in the fall of 2008, according to Jeffrey Shook, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work who also is affiliated with the law school and is guiding the program. Shook, who himself earned both degrees, has done a lot of policy work and knows the value the joint degree adds. I m able to bring something to the table that the lawyers don t have, and I m able to bring something that the social workers don t have, he says. We want to create leaders who are well grounded in both professions and can integrate them in all kinds of policy and practice. Youthful Offenders: How Social Work Can Play a Role in Rehabilitation There are just so many ways that girls and boys and their families could be helped sooner that would be so much less stigmatizing and punitive. Sara Goodkind Assistant Professor, School of Social Work As a member of a task force of the Department of Human Services in Michigan, Shook spent two and a half years helping to close a maximumsecurity prison for juveniles. The facility, which had just opened in 1999, was built in anticipation of a crime wave populated by youthful offenders. But juvenile crime dropped instead, and kids who did not need a maximum-security facility were placed in the prison, which offered minimal services. Continued on next page Bridges 7

10 Though it was costly for the state of Michigan to get out of its contract with the privately run institution, it would have been more costly to remain open and would have harmed public safety by setting young offenders up for a life of repeat offenses. Rediscovering a Voice Shook views the criminal justice issue as a bellwether for social work and an opportunity for the profession to redefine its priorities. We talk of trying to go back and figure out what social work is and what we re trying to do, he says. What s the future of the profession? I do think [we need] to sit back and say, What is it we re trying to do here? What s the goal? That s where schools of social work come into play, he says. I think the profession itself needs to have some of these conversations, and I think schools need to take some leadership in that direction as well. Classes in criminal and juvenile justice systems have been offered in the past but have disappeared. Shook would like to see schools return to those tracks and believes the joint degree program is a move in that direction. It can be a vehicle to try to produce some really skilled and talented leaders. That s kind of the way I envision it, he says. With the guidance and participation of social work professionals, some flaws in the current system may eventually be solved, faculty members say. What s lost [in the dialogue about incarceration] are social work values, that we are individuals, and a lot of things that the profession is based on, [such as] social justice, says Shook. We shift toward looking at them as offenders instead of people. You lose a really important and prominent voice. 8 Spring 2008

11 Race, Incarceration, and the Numbers Back in the 1980s, Alfred Blumstein, J. Erik Jonsson University Professor of Urban Systems and Operations Research at Carnegie Mellon University, was invited to attend a meeting to discuss the fact that the incarceration rate of Blacks to Whites was seven to one. Offered as proof of racism in the American criminal justice system, that ratio which today is about eight to one intrigued him, and he decided to explore its meaning. That certainly is distressing, but you really have to take account of the huge difference in involvement in the kinds of crimes that get you into prison, Blumstein says. So he investigated further. What he found was that African Americans and Whites are arrested in about the same ratios and that there existed important police biases in which officers exercised some discretion as to whether they would arrest as with disorderly conduct, for example. For drug offenses, Blacks were twice as likely to serve prison time as Whites. When he was finished, Blumstein was able to account for about 80 percent of the seven-to-one ratio. That says basically that we ve got to look much more carefully and can t just stop at a simple comparison of incarceration rates, he says. We ve got to look at other factors that contribute to that. He presented some of his findings in a lecture at Pitt as part of the Center on Race and Social Problems Speaker Series during the academic year. A second paper, written in 1991, noted that while drug offenses accounted for about 6 percent of prisoners in the earlier study, that figure climbed to 21 percent by the 1990s. Interestingly, drugs were one area where arrest was the least likely predictor of incarceration, especially because there was different treatment when offenses involved crack versus powder cocaine. Blumstein does not dispute that racism exists in the system; rather, he argues that such statistics bear closer inspection. There were some crimes for which African Americans were underrepresented in prison compared to arrest rates; homicide is one example. Blumstein believes that relates to a phenomenon known as victim discounting, in which the race of the defendant has less bearing on punishment than does the race of the victim. In other words, homicides involving White victims are more likely to result in capital punishment than those involving Black victims, he says. Blumstein believes family ties and social networks play an important role in reducing crime rates. In parts of the country where African Americans tend to live near extended family and friends, and where neighbors rely on one another and are willing to intervene if they see problems with a neighborhood child, there is more social control, he says. Obviously, social control is an important factor, says Blumstein. It s clearly an instrument of crime control. Bridges 9

12 DEVELOPMENT & ALUMNI News School of Social Work Announces the David E. Epperson Legacy Project In the spring 2006 issue of Bridges, the School of Social Work announced the grand opening of the School of Social Work Conference Center. This stateof-the-art facility David E. Epperson provides audiovisual technology to host both the school s and the Center on Race and Social Problems annual speaker series as well as meetings and continuing education, distance learning, and training programs. Recently, alumni and friends of the School of Social Work began working together to establish an endowed fund to name the conference center in honor of former Dean David E. Epperson. Cochaired by Leon Haley, associate professor in Pitt s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and former director of admissions for the School of Social Work, and Morton Coleman, professor emeritus in the School of Social Work, the David E. Epperson Legacy Project Committee (consisting of Doris Carson Williams, Julius Jones, Eric Springer, Philip Hallen, Wendell Freeland, and Ronald Davenport) aims to raise $375,000 to support this endowed fund. To date, the committee has raised $215,000 toward this ambitious goal. Dave Epperson is a great man, says Coleman. His commitment to education, the community, social concerns, and his family make him one of the most respected individuals within the University and the Pittsburgh community, as well as nationally and internationally. He is intelligent, thoughtful, and caring, and it is my honor to help establish an endowed fund that will honor an outstanding human being. Gifts directed to this endowed fund will ensure that this facility is maintained and upgraded to meet the evolving needs of students and professionals. The fund also will enhance academic excellence and enrich the learning opportunities shaped by Epperson. During Epperson s tenure, the School of Social Work rose to national prominence and now is ranked among the top 10 percent of all graduate social work programs. Among his many administrative achievements, Epperson was responsible for raising enrollment by 30 percent and increasing the diversity of the student population. Epperson s leadership Pioneer members (left to right) Barbara Shore, Ed Sites, Anna Cunningham, and Joe Eaton also impacted the community at large, as he served on advisory boards for various local and national organizations. The David E. Epperson Legacy Project will pay tribute to and recognize Epperson s many achievements. If you wish to make a special gift and join others in honoring Epperson, please contact Liz Cooper at or You also may give online at (please allocate your gift to the David E. Epperson Legacy Project). Southwestern Pennsylvania Chapter of NASW Pioneers Presents Oral History Project The Social Work Pioneer Program, which was formally recognized by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Board of Directors in June 1994, fosters the historical continuity of NASW and the social work profession through the pursuit of three major goals: 1. The collection, protection, and promotion of the history of the profession and of NASW; 2. The identification and systematic recognition of those social workers who have made significant contributions to that history; and 3. The provision of assistance to NASW and to the professional community to further the purpose of social work as a profession as the knowledge, experience, capacity, and interests of Social Work Pioneers individually or collectively permit. Chaired by Professor Emeritus Barbara Shore and Anna Cunningham and founded in 1996 as part of the Southwestern Pennsylvania chapter of NASW, the Southwestern Pennsylvania chapter of NASW Pioneers was the first local division in the country. The chapter s first activity was to develop an oral history project about the social work profession. The first volume of the NASW Pioneers Oral History Book was presented at the chapter s fall social work forum and recognition luncheon on November 16, Published by the University Library System, the NASW Pioneers Oral History Book tells the story of 37 retired Pittsburghbased social workers who received their social work degrees before These stories provide insight into the significant impact these social work pioneers have had on the people of Pittsburgh as well as on the agencies and communities for which they worked. The NASW Pioneers Oral History Book is available at Hillman Library and in the School of Social Work Office of the Dean on the 21st floor of the Cathedral of Learning. Please contact Shore at or Cunningham at if you are interested in attending NASW Pioneers meetings or if you would like to get involved in future NASW Pioneers projects, including developing historical archives for the social work profession in Southwestern Pennsylvania. 10 Spring 2008

13 Alumni Corner: A Look at the Lives and Careers of Social Work Alumni Q & A with Sharon Ciocca From the earliest days of her adulthood, Sharon Ciocca (MSW 81) knew she wanted to work in the criminal justice system. At age 16, I knew I wanted to work in a jail, she says. I was always interested in understanding why individuals committed certain crimes. Ciocca has achieved that dream, as she now is employed by Allegheny Correctional Health Services Inc. and serves as director of mental health at the Allegheny County Jail. Ciocca has more than 20 years of forensic social work experience in correctional and mental health settings. In addition, she maintains a full-time evening private practice and teaches at a local university and in the continuing education program at the Pitt School of Social Work. She also has consulted on the impact of mental illness on the criminal justice system and was a writer and narrator of two forensic training videos, Points of Contact and Warning Signs. What made you interested in the criminal justice system? My interest started when I was a student at [what was then] Robert Morris Junior College studying to become a medical secretary; my study hall window looked down into the yard of the Allegheny County Jail. This caused me to reflect on why a person would commit a crime. My curiosity about the criminal mind grew while majoring in behavioral science at [what was then] Point Park College and working full time at Mercy Hospital as a psychiatric social worker. During this time, the notorious Richard Speck murders made headlines. I questioned why Speck [who murdered eight student nurses] would do such a thing. Not only was I interested in looking at that aspect of the criminal mind, but I also wanted to examine the needs of the mentally ill offender in the criminal justice system. While I was at Mercy Hospital, many inmates from the county jail would be admitted to the psychiatric unit after they attempted suicide. I would ask myself, What kind of mental health services does the jail system offer? I knew that the mentally ill in the criminal justice system, at the time, were a forgotten population adrift in the system. How did you get your foot in the door at a correctional facility? I met a woman at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Pittsburgh who volunteered with the prison psychiatrist. This woman introduced me to the prison psychiatrist and I began volunteering, cofacilitating group therapy with prison inmates. It was then that I knew this is what I wanted to do. After a year, SCI Pittsburgh offered me a position as a corrections counselor. This proved to be much more than just a job but rather a commitment to understand the behavior of, and to address the need for services for, the mentally ill offender. When did you decide to apply to Pitt s School of Social Work, and what did you do after you graduated? I loved my position in the state prison setting, but I knew that to do what I wanted to do, I needed to get my master s degree. I felt that I would be more diversified with a social work degree. I left SCI Pittsburgh to join the Pitt School of Social Work, which offered a juvenile and criminal justice cluster under the guidance of Dr. Alexander Hawkins, who became my mentor. I did my field placements in the forensic unit at Mayview State Hospital and at the Munhall Community Mental Health Center. While I was finishing my MSW, there was an ad in the paper that said that the Allegheny County Jail was looking for a social worker. I had a few months to go before I graduated; however, I got the position! I ve been there ever since. How did earning your MSW contribute to your career success? Alex Hawkins was instrumental in helping me look at the criminal justice field, and he really prepared me to pursue my dream. I knew I had to go on and get my license, and I got my LSW. Then I got my LCSW. Well, I needed something more because I wanted to be in private practice, so I went on and I became a Board Certified Diplomate in clinical social work. Dr. Barbara Shore also was a mentor; her course on death and dying made me want to practice psychotherapy. In addition to having a complete understanding of being a social worker in the criminal justice system, I became certified as a jail manager through the American Jail Association and a certified correctional health professional through the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare. I believe you re never finished learning; I learn something new every day, not just from my peers but from the administration and from the inmates as well. I couldn t have done all this without my past, my connections, and my schooling and training. I m very proud of what I do as a social worker; I have the best of all possible worlds. Sharon Ciocca will be teaching a forensic social work class for the continuing education program on April 18. For more information, please visit pitt.edu/alumni/continuing-education/. Alumni Society News and Events Bridges 11

14 Second Annual March Career Madness Event Coming Soon The School of Social Work Alumni Society is proud to announce the second annual March Career Madness student and alumni networking event. The event will be held on Wednesday, March 19, in the School of Social Work Conference Center, 2017 Cathedral of Learning. Last year s event welcomed more than 100 students and alumni to an evening of career networking and reconnecting with old friends. To find out how you can participate in the 2008 March Career Madness event or other alumni society activities, please contact Darlene Norman-Davis at or visit edu/alumni for more details. Alumni Society Achieves Gold Banner For the second consecutive year, alumni from the School of Social Work have been named among the 40 Under 40. Sponsored by Pittsburgh Magazine and the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project (PUMP), 40 Under 40 recognizes 40 talented individuals under the age of 40 who are making a positive impact on the region s development. David Coplan (BASW 91, MSW 93), executive director of the Human Services Center Corp.; Jacki Hoover (MSW 01), community program manager for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services Executive Office; and Adrienne Walnoha (MSW 99), executive director of the Community Human Services Corp., were selected from a nomination Social Work Alumni Recognized pool of more than 200 candidates by an independent panel of judges composed of former winners, business professionals, and civic leaders. Honorees were chosen based on their passion, commitment, visibility, diversity, and overall impact on the region. Other alumni who have been honored previously among the 40 Under 40 include the following: Alicia Andrews (BASW 01, MSW 03), associate director, Human Services Center Corp. Latika Davis-Jones (MSW 04, PhD 07), satellite services coordinator, Tadiso Inc. Aliya Durham (MSW 02), executive director, Operation Better Block, Inc. Susan Kerr (MSW 00), program coordinator, Family Services of Western Pennsylvania Congratulations to all of the honorees! Recognition In 2007, the School of Social Work Alumni Society was proud to receive gold banner status from the Pitt Alumni Association. The banner program recognizes the services alumni societies provide through activities that support the four strategic directions of the Pitt Alumni Association, including hosting alumni networking events, supporting the success of current students, and growing alumni and student participation in the Pitt Career Network. This award builds on the accomplishments of the society in 2006, when it received a blue banner. This year s gold banner award included $500 in scholarship funds for the School of Social Work Alumni Society scholarship fund. (From left to right) Keith Caldwell (MSW 02), Diane Conti (BASW 85, MSW 86), and James Cox (MSW 90) 12 Spring 2008

15 What Do These Alumni Have in Common? They represent three generations of leadership at the Westinghouse Valley Human Services Center, which recently celebrated its 25th year of service in Pittsburgh s Mon Valley. The Human Services Center Corp. (HSCC) operates the center in Turtle Creek, Pa., and has provided paid internships to nearly 100 students in the past 25 years. Among these were HSCC s current executive director, David Coplan (BASW 91, MSW 93), and associate director, Alicia Andrews (BASW 01, MSW 03). Tracy Soska, continuing education director and chair of the Community Organization and Social Administration concentration in the School of Social Work, served as the center s founding executive director. ROOTS of HISTORY Downsizing? Need more space? Want help to save your collectables for the future? Help preserve the history of the School of Social Work! The School of Social Work and the University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center are seeking contributions to help document the school s history. (From left to right) Alicia Andrews (BASW 01, MSW 03), David Coplan (BASW 91, MSW 93), and Tracy Soska (BASW 74, MSW 78) (In fact, Professor Emeritus Barbara Shore, then doctoral program director at the school, was one of the founding board members who hired Soska to direct the center.) Coplan, then a BASW student and one of Soska s first interns, worked with him to help establish the Pantry Network of Eastern Suburbs before continuing on to an MSW internship and coordinating the Mon Valley Providers Council (MVPC). Both the Pantry Network and MVPC were vital human service resources during the region s industrial and economic decline in the 1980s. Coplan became associate director when Soska joined Pitt s faculty, and, as a field instructor, Coplan brought in Andrews, then an MSW intern, who worked with him to establish the center s award-winning youth after-school and summer programs. When Coplan became executive director, Andrews was named associate director. You can liberate history from your attic; closets; file cabinets; dresser drawers; bookshelves; garage; basement; or wherever you store keepsakes, memories, souvenirs, and treasures. Of value to the collection are correspondence, meeting minutes, brochures, event programs, faculty papers, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, photographs of identified persons and events, and any other items associated with the school s history. For more information or to arrange a donation, please contact Professor Emeritus Edward W. Sites at or Three generations of alumni leaders have guided this veritable human services mall that now serves more than 750 people daily and was a recent recipient of the Forbes Funds prestigious Alfred W. Wishart, Jr. Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management. This alumni connection represents a school legacy strongly tied to the importance of field internships in developing social work leaders. The center has provided and continues to provide paid field placements to all of its student interns as an investment in the future, including its own. Bridges 13

16 FACULTY Focus NASW Honors Tracy Soska Tracy Soska is something of a throwback social worker, the kind of guy who put in time in the trenches long before he stepped in front of a lectern as a member of a university faculty. He has been a community organizer, a direct care provider, a mentor to Pitt alumni, and a fixture in the School of Social Work. And now he s also an honoree of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Pennsylvania chapter, which named Soska its Social Worker of the Year for the Southwest Division. Colleen Noel Goodlin (MSW 02), who was one of the NASW members who nominated Soska for the award, cited his infectious passion for collaborating with social workers in order to advance the profession. Soska is an important asset to the profession and to NASW, for he has a way of making the impossible possible, Goodlin adds. That passion for social work was apparent early in Soska, who grew up in Ambridge, a mill town just outside Pittsburgh. While delivering newspapers as a boy, he found that he was spending a lot of time helping his customers with problems, sitting down and chatting with elderly people who needed someone to talk to. Later, Soska became a member of the Ambridge Teenage Action Committee, which set up evening babysitting services and organized food and toy collection drives. He marched against hunger and worked as an antiwar activist. 14 Spring 2008

17 I was always involved in those types of things, he says. [Soska's] philosophy always has been that students learn best by doing, preferably out in the community, where social work s roots are. For a time, Soska entertained the idea of enrolling at the U.S. Naval Academy, but losing friends to the war in Vietnam changed his mind. He started at Pitt premed and then as an English major, but when his mother died, he dropped out of school and joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) what is now AmeriCorps VISTA and worked for a school breakfast program in East Liberty. He also worked as a youth tutor. It really opened up to me the opportunities to get involved in that type of work, Soska says. It was about that time that he ran into Grady Roberts Jr. (MSW 65), who retired from the School of Social Work in 2003 as associate dean for admissions and student affairs. Back then, Roberts was recruiting for a new undergraduate program, and he persuaded Soska to return to the University. I didn t realize there was this kind of profession, in which he could earn a degree in something he loved, Soska recalls. After earning a bachelor s degree in social work in 1974, Soska went to work in a steel mill, where he also had worked summers to put himself through college, drawn by the high wages he was able to earn. His wife, a journeyman machinist whom he had met in college, also worked in the mill. The lure of the money at the mill was really exciting, but you always got laid off, on and off, Soska says. A former BASW classmate and member of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh invited him to work for the Urban League s new Ex-Offender Project. Soska later returned to school, and he earned his MSW in 1978, specializing in community organization and social administration. Immediately after graduating, he went to work in the field, something that has been a love of his ever since. Soska directed both the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Alliance and the Urban League s Allegheny County Youth Employment System. Later, when the county was looking to set up a model human services center in the Turtle Creek area, the Westinghouse Valley Human Services Center, Soska became its leader a position he held for 10 years. When the steel industry began to collapse and the same mills where Soska had once worked closed for good, Soska was helping to find jobs for the unemployed in the Mon Valley. Always an active alumnus, Soska was in touch with a former professor, James Cunningham (now an emeritus faculty member), who was conducting the wellknown River Communities Project in the Mon Valley and who invited him to come back to the school and teach introductory and foundation courses on an adjunct basis. Thus, Soska s second career was born. His philosophy always has been that students learn best by doing, preferably out in the community, where social work s roots are. When I was working out in the Mon Valley, I saw the potential of what you could do if you could harness university resources, says Soska. Several students had helped him as interns at the human services center; of those, one is now the current executive director of the Human Services Center Corp., which operates the center. Soska estimates that four generations of Pitt social work graduates work at the center. (See story in Development & Alumni News, page 13.) When I looked at what the University had to offer, I really wanted to come in and find ways to more strongly connect it to the community. What we do in teaching and in research should be connected to the field, he says. I think I succeeded. Soska furthered his mission by directing the School of Social Work s continuing education program, a position he still holds. He also serves as codirector of Pitt s Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC), a collaborative effort with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that supports community outreach for issues such as public health, job training, economic development, education, housing, and neighborhood revitalization. (See For his colleagues at NASW, Soska has served as a liaison with Pitt to offer different programs and activities, including an annual fall forum that recognizes the accomplishments of social workers. He helps with licensure exam preparation and additional training as well as promoting the profession s image, which he says takes a beating in popular culture. [Social workers] are not always seen as the helpers, he says. His message: We re not just those people you see on TV who take the kids away. Soska continues to champion service learning for students. Papers written in his classes and others have gained millions of dollars for agencies, and he is working on forging those same connections for other Pitt disciplines, including fine arts and engineering, through COPC. It s one thing to have your students learn how to develop projects and proposals. It s another thing to have them do this for field agencies and get funded, he says. I d like to think, at least in small ways, I ve fostered this connectivity throughout the University. Bridges 15

18 School Joins DHS to Commemorate Its 10th Anniversary In 2007, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) marked its 10th anniversary with a series of public forums hosted by its key university and research partners. The University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, the RAND Corp., and Carnegie Mellon University s H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management all hosted forums; however, it was the School of Social Work that hosted the final forum and drew a packed crowd to the school s conference center on November 9. Allegheny County DHS Director Marc Cherna and School of Social Work Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Lambert Maguire opened the forum by recognizing the important and growing collaboration between the school and the Allegheny County DHS. The ensuing presentation, Celebrating 10 Years and Planning for the Next 10: Best Practices for Social Work in Human Services, underscored that the social work profession continues to make up a majority of the professionals working at all levels from direct practice to management and leadership in the human service arena. Throughout its first 10 years, Allegheny County DHS has worked closely with the School of Social Work on research, education, and practice endeavors. The forum provided an opportunity to reflect on the past while looking at the research, education, and best practices that better define issues and challenges for preparing social workers for the next decade of practice in the human services. Valire Carr Copeland Moderated by Valire Carr Copeland, associate professor and doctoral program director, the final forum featured the following presentations by school research faculty members with responses from key Allegheny County DHS administrators in critical human service fields: Child Welfare Education and Research, with Helen Cahalane, Child Welfare Education and Research Programs principal investigator, and Marcia Sturdivant, deputy director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families Aging Education, Research, and Practice, with Patricia Kolar and Elizabeth Mulvaney of the school s Geriatric Practicum Partnership Program and Mildred Morrison, administrator of the Area Agency on Aging Mental Health Services Research and Education, with Catherine Greeno, codirector of the Mental Health Services Research Project at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, and Sue Martone, assistant deputy director of the Office of Behavioral Health Criminal and Juvenile Justice Issues in Research, Education, and Practice, with Hide Yamatani, associate dean for research and principal investigator of the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative study; Jeffrey Shook, assistant professor; and Erin Dalton, Allegheny County DHS deputy director for data analysis, research, and evaluation Race, Diversity, and Disparity Issues for Education, Research, and Practice, with Ralph Bangs, associate director of the Center on Race and Social Problems The School of Social Work looks forward to enhancing its partnership with Allegheny County DHS to meet the challenges and opportunities for evidencebased practice in the next decade. 16 Spring 2008

19 Students Excel in DHS Case Competition A great kick start to the next decade of partnership with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) came with the first-ever DHS Student Case Competition, held November 8 10, Thirteen teams of four students, each representing the three DHS partner schools the School of Social Work, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and Carnegie Mellon University s H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management competed to deliver the Allegheny County DHS 20th Anniversary Report of 2017 and highlight what would make for a successful second decade of human service delivery. This challenging future best practices theme brought out student creativity and presentation skills during the three days of competition as the teams vied for the final three prize spots. Three social work students were on winning teams: Barbara Kline (first place) and Justin Norris and Allison Kacmar (third place). Also competing from the School of Social Work were Tracy Baton, Patty Chabala, Christina Marco, Kelly McCloskey, Leslie Michielli, Sharone Pasternak, Toni Roitz, Lisa Shelbe, Jennifer Spano, and Martin Trevino. The three winning teams were composed of graduate students from Pitt s School of Social Work and Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and Carnegie Mellon University s H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management. MSW student Barbara Kline (second from left) poses with her first-place teammates. Congratulations to all of the school s student competitors and winners. You are the social workers of tomorrow, and you represented the school very well. MSW students Allison Kacmar (second from left) and Justin Norris (far right) and their teammates took third place. Bridges 17

20 RESEARCH Update By Hide Yamatani, Associate Dean for Research The following are brief abstracts of several recent (within the past six months) research initiatives being undertaken by School of Social Work faculty members. Project Title: Drug Use and Lifestyles of American Youth Researcher: John Wallace, associate professor Funded by: National Institute on Drug Abuse Monitoring the Future is an ongoing epidemiological research and reporting project that began in 1975 and has become one of the nation s principal sources of reliable information on trends in drug use among adolescents and young adults. This research study has three broad and complementary aims: (1) to monitor drug use and potential explanatory factors among American secondary school students, college students, other young adults, and selected age groups beyond young adulthood; (2) to distinguish which of three fundamentally different kinds of change maturational, historical, and/or cohort are occurring for various types of drug use, including the use of tobacco and alcohol; and (3) to study the causes, consequences, and maturational patterns associated with these different types of change in drug use. Project Title: Study of Outcomes for People Discharged from Mayview State Hospital Researchers: Catherine Greeno, associate professor; Sue Estroff, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Carol Anderson, Department of Psychiatry (Pitt School of Medicine) Funded by: Allegheny HealthChoices, Inc. The purpose of this study is to provide quality assurance to state providers and policymakers, and to contribute knowledge about predictors of successful outcomes that could lead to future policies to provide the best possible care to people with chronic mental illnesses. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has embraced a recovery orientation to treatment for mental illness. This includes a firm commitment to providing citizens with chronic mental illnesses the best possible care in the least restrictive environments. Substantial efforts are being made to discharge people living in state psychiatric hospitals to appropriate community settings. These discharges are part of a plan to substantially decrease the number of beds in state inpatient facilities as well as the number of state inpatient facilities themselves. Mayview State Hospital is scheduled to close in December Researchers will study patient trajectories and outcomes after leaving Mayview State Hospital with a mixed quantitative/ qualitative study that will follow a random sample of 70 people discharged from Mayview. They will follow the patients service use, psychiatric symptomatology, social functioning, and social networks using standardized questionnaire assessments. In addition, through interviews, they will learn about participants subjective experiences of leaving the hospital and adjusting to new circumstances. Project Title: Service Pathways among African American and Caucasian Families in Allegheny County Following Contact with Child Welfare Services Researcher: Mary Beth Rauktis, research assistant professor Funded by: Center on Race and Social Problems This study has two objectives: (1) to document the service paths of African American and Caucasian children following referral to Allegheny County child welfare services and (2) to identify local decision-making points, case characteristics, and organization factors that may contribute to service disparities in child welfare. That African American children are overrepresented in child welfare is well known, but most research has focused on disproportionality among children who enter foster care. Less is known about the extent of disproportionality at the front end of children s involvement with child welfare as well as the local agency characteristics that may contribute to service disparities over time. In Allegheny County, there are disparities between Whites and African Americans in many areas. These disparities provide the backdrop of local community issues that influence how decisions are made by child welfare workers and supervisors. The study will view the extent to which racial differences factor into the likelihood of being investigated, having the report substantiated, and receiving ongoing child welfare services when other case characteristics are taken into account. This initial investigation will provide information to better inform a more extensive research study suggesting possible design and variables that contribute to disproportionality. 18 Spring 2008

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